Editors' note: Lenovo completed its purchase of IBM's PC division on 2 April, 2005, so you will no longer see the familiar letters IBM in front of ThinkPad laptops -- they are now known as simply ThinkPad products. Lenovo may introduce products under its name in the future.
Frequent travellers who burn the midnight oil would do well to consider the ThinkPad X32. This ultraportable offers enough keyboard and screen space, battery life, and connectivity to get some serious work done on the road. Yet despite all of these perks, it still weighs well under 2kg. The only mobile employees who might not embrace the ThinkPad X32 are those who require an integrated optical drive; for them, we recommend the Sony VAIO T250/L.
The ThinkPad X32 is slightly bulkier than its sibling, the ThinkPad X41; according to Lenovo, the larger dimensions allow for better performance, while the smaller model offers better battery life. Nevertheless, the ThinkPad X32's dimensions are on a par with those of the typical ultraportable notebook. It weighs a very manageable 1.6kg and measures 273 by 223 by 30mm. The system's AC adapter is also of average size for an ultraportable, bringing the total travel weight to 1.63kg.
The ThinkPad X32 has one of the nicest ultraportable case designs we've come across. Thanks to the full size of nearly all of the keys, we were able to touch-type comfortably for extended periods. One of our favourite laptop pointing devices -- the ThinkPad's signature red rubber pointing stick, with a broad, textured top -- sits in the middle of the keyboard. Two roomy mouse buttons are centred below the spacebar, with a handy scroll button between the two. The four buttons above the keyboard control the volume and link to a help utility. The 12.1-inch display, featuring a standard 1,024x768 native resolution, is big by ultraportable standards: many systems in this class include 10.4-inch or smaller screens. A built-in light above the screen shines down like a spotlight on the keyboard, helping to illuminate the board when the captain dims the lights. Lastly, the ThinkPad line's strong metal hinges connect the laptop's lid and bottom.
We tested a ThinkPad X32 that cost a reasonable £1950 (as of May 2005). While the laptop included a fast, 2GHz Pentium M processor, it also had a few questionable components. The system's 16MB ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chip was several generations behind ATI's newest X-series chips, and its average 512MB of memory ran at a middling 333MHz. However, we were pleased to see that the unit included a sizable 60GB hard drive spinning at a quick 5,400rpm, a flexible Intel Pro Wireless 2915ABG dual-band wireless card, and Bluetooth.
For an ultraportable, the ThinkPad X32 is chock-full of ports, jacks, and slots. It offers the parallel port and the three audio jacks (headphone, microphone, and line-in) usually reserved for bigger laptops, along with FireWire, VGA, 56Kbps modem, Gigabit Ethernet, infrared, and two USB 2.0 ports. The laptop also includes one Type II PC Card slot and one dedicated slot for CompactFlash cards. Companies interested in deploying a fleet of ThinkPads will appreciate the ThinkPad X32's compatibility with R-series and T-series docking stations, as well as its identical drive size, which lets you swap drives among models. Our test unit came preloaded with the Windows XP Professional operating system. Like other business laptops, the ThinkPad X32's software bundle does not include a productivity suite, though the system did come with a user license for Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition. The system also includes the convenient Access Connections Wi-Fi utility, which lets you create and save different connectivity profiles for your various stomping grounds. InterVideo WinDVD player rounded out the bundle, with Sonic RecordNow and Sonic DLA to assist with disc burning.
The laptop's Embedded Security System functions like a Trusted Platform Module, offering a hardware-based data lockdown. The laptop's Active Protection System detects when the laptop is dropped or bumped, at which point the program stops the hard drive from spinning, preventing possible damage to the drive. However, the system lacks the fingerprint reader that we've seen on other ThinkPads, including the ThinkPad X41 and the ThinkPad T43.
Our ThinkPad X32 test unit got midrange results in CNET's mobile benchmarks. Though it lagged 9 percent behind the Dell Latitude D410, it came out 9 percent ahead of the HP Compaq Business Notebook nc4010, which included a slower, 1.7GHz Pentium M processor and 266MHz of RAM. The ThinkPad X32 triumphed over the Latitude D410 in our battery-drain trials, lasting a very respectable 4 hours, 23 minutes to the D410's 3 hours, 41 minutes. The HP nc4010's smaller battery trailed far behind both the ThinkPad and the Dell, lasting a mere 2 hours, 48 minutes. All three battery scores lagged behind the top-notch, 6-hour, 19-minute time earned by the Sony VAIO T250/L, which included a smaller (read: less power-hungry) 10.4-inch screen, an ultra-low-voltage Pentium M processor, and a slightly larger battery.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Dell Latitude D410
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 915GM 128MB; Fujitsu MHT2040AH 40GB 4,200rpm
HP Compaq nc4010
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M 735; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Radeon IGP 350M 32MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 40GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 16MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K60 60GB 5,400rpm
Edited by Michelle Thatcher
Additional editing by Tom Espiner